Originally posted: November 9, 2017
This column is an early-week look at what WRs are looking better or worse than usual against their secondary counterparts. Few NFL teams use true shadow coverage anymore, but if a team does, or is employing a different strategy this week in particular, we’ll note it here.
For the most part, we’re not going to mention the truly great players (it’s always a good idea to play Antonio Brown), unless the situation is so bad that a stud should be an obvious cash-game play.
We also finish up with some sneaky TE and RB plays in the passing game.
Doug Baldwin vs. Cardinals CBs
The easy analysis here – and one I think many amateur DFS players will make – is the fact that Baldwin is going up against the Cardinals. And since he’s the Seahawks’ “#1” receiver, he’s going to see the predominant coverage of Patrick Peterson in the matchup. Most sharp players will realize that is not the case. Baldwin is Seattle’s slot receiver, almost exclusively, and Peterson will only occasionally travel into the slot. Instead, it’s far more likely Baldwin sees a lot of Tyrann Mathieu in this matchup, a matchup that has overall been exploitable for opposing WRs. And over his last five games against the Cardinals, five games in which Peterson appeared, Baldwin has posted 38/533/2 receiving on 56 targets. That’s an average of 7.6 receptions, 106.6 yards, and 0.4 touchdowns per game, on 11.2 targets, for an average of 20.66 PPR fantasy points per game. Baldwin has been an utterly dominant receiver against the Cardinals and is on pace for a career-high 146 targets this year. I’m firing him up in cash games, potentially in a pairing with Russell Wilson.
AJ Green vs. Titans CBs
Talk about an absolute blow-up spot. Green was ejected last week in a frustrating matchup with Jaguar CB Jalen Ramsey, absolutely losing his mind on one of the biggest trash talkers in the game. He finished with just 1 catch for 6 yards, though he could have had a long TD if Andy Dalton didn’t misthrow a deep ball (the story of Green’s career thus far). I think this spot is going to be absolutely massive for him though. Tennessee has overall been a mediocre defense against WRs, but their bottom line has benefitted from some favorable matchups in recent weeks – Baltimore, Cleveland, Indianapolis, Miami. Green is in a smash-spot against rookie Adoree’ Jackson, plus LeShaun Sims and Logan Ryan. An angry Green is someone I want to throw my hat into the ring with, and I’ll be trying to squeeze him into as many lineups as I possibly can, perhaps alongside Doug Baldwin, whom I also love this week.
Julio Jones vs. Cowboys CBs
Julio had his best game of the season yardage-wise against the Panthers last week, catching 6 passes for 118 yards. But it was the one play he didn’t make that told the story of the game – dropping a perfectly thrown 39-yard bomb from Matt Ryan when he was wide open. Heck, that may have been the story of the season for the Falcons so far, as they still made plenty of mistakes, but were in a position to win the game if they had made a very simple play. It’s put Atlanta into a dead-nuts must-win spot at home against Dallas, and though Julio has been one of the most frustrating aspects of a frustrating fantasy football season, I think it’s a phenomenal spot for him. According to FootballOutsiders, Dallas has been overall poor against perimeter receivers, ranking as the #16 defense against #1 WRs, and the #25 defense against #2 WRs. Dallas rookie CB Jourdan Lewis has been Dallas’ primary RCB of late, and that’s Julio’s primary offensive position. Of course, Julio moves all around, including into the slot, and he’ll be a nightmarish matchup for Dallas anywhere he goes. Keep an eye on the fact that Julio is dealing with some sort of leg injury, and Julio’s tendency to limp on and off the field whenever he is banged up can make it annoying to pay up for him. But the upside, based on the matchup, and the must-win narrative, are palpable here.
Adam Thielen vs. Kendall Fuller
I’m actually highlighting this battle because I think it’s a better battle than it is a good matchup – Fuller is a physical, aggressive slot CB, who had an interception against the Seahawks last week when he absolutely boxed out Doug Baldwin, one of the NFL’s premier slot receivers. But according to ProFootballFocus, Fuller has been targeted 34 times out of the slot, tied for 6th-most in the NFL, while Thielen’s 41 slot targets are third-most in the NFL (behind Larry Fitzgerald and Baldwin). Baldwin still went off statistically against Washington last week (not all the fault of Fuller), and Thielen is the favorite receiver for Case Keenum (who ostensibly will still start despite Teddy Bridgewater’s potential return). It’s not a blow-up spot for Thielen, but rather one where I can still see him continuing his target-dominant ways. In his last three games – all Keenum starts – Thielen has posted 13, 12, and 10 targets, and scored his first TD of the season in Week 8 prior to Minnesota’s bye. Thielen is an excellent PPR lineup filler, and if you think he can find the end zone again, he’s fine on half-PPR formats as well.
JuJu Smith-Schuster vs. Colts CBs
Obviously, Antonio Brown is going to be a chalk play against one of the NFL’s worst defenses, but that’s no surprise considering Brown is a chalk play every week for those who can eat the cost of playing him. But I also really like the emergent Smith-Schuster this week. In Week 8 against the Lions, with a benched Martavis Bryant, JuJu went nuts, posting 7/193/1 receiving on 10 targets, including a 97-yard TD from the slot. JuJu played an 80% snap share in that matchup, his highest total of the year, and there’s obviously no reason for the Steelers to go away from the offensive approach that worked. This week, JuJu will primarily play the slot against solid rookie CB Nate Hairston, but keep in mind that the Colt secondary is in disrepair at the present time, with the bizarre Vontae Davis situation highlighting some of the dysfunction. (Davis did not travel with the team last week, with the team saying it was NOT injury related while others suggested his problematic groin had something to do with it.) Bryant will be back this week, but it’d be caching malpractice if JuJu loses snaps to him. I expect JuJu will be rather chalky as well this week, but there’s a good argument to eat that chalk.
Keenan Allen vs. Aaron Colvin
Attacking this Jacksonville secondary likely seems counterproductive, and it may well be for those of you filling out predominantly cash lineups, but as the Chargers’ primary slot receiver, Allen at the least can avoid AJ Bouye and Jalen Ramsey on the perimeter – ask AJ Green how the matchup with Ramsey can get inside one’s head. But Allen will likely see the primary coverage of Colvin, who is a solid slot CB but isn’t in the Ramsey/Bouye shutdown class. According to ProFootballFocus, Colvin has surrendered 24 receptions from the slot alone, 6th-most in the NFL. Meanwhile, Bouye and Ramsey have surrendered 20 receptions a piece. Allen has had an overall disappointing last month, posting just 12/145 receiving on 21 targets over his last three games (the Chargers were on bye last week), and he hasn’t scored a TD since Week 1. But if Philip Rivers is going to attack this defense at all through the air, my guess is it’ll be in the middle of the field. Again, Colvin is a rock-solid slot corner, but he can give up some catches if you’re looking for some PPR production.
Dontrelle Inman vs. Packers CBs
There are a few expensive WR options I’m eyeing up early in the week here, so some punt plays will be critical to filling out rosters. One of the biggest risks you could take would be playing Inman, in his first game in Chicago, with rookie QB Mitchell Trubisky. In four starts, Trubisky is averaging just over 9 completions per game, to go with just 20 pass attempts per game. While Trubisky is struggling, his weaponry is among the worst I have ever seen in my decade working in the NFL – maybe the worst. Say what you want about Inman (and it may not be much, considering not many people know about him), but he’s a professional receiver with some size and a great understanding of routes and how to set up corners. I doubt he will have as much success doing that with Trubisky as he did with a true master like Philip Rivers, but in my view, Inman is instantly the Bears’ best receiver. When given a chance to play – as in 2016 – Inman has produced solid numbers. Green Bay is coming off a game in which it surrendered massive numbers to both Marvin Jones and Golden Tate, and over the last five weeks is allowing the second-most PPR FPG to opposing WRs (43.52). Again, you know who you’re getting into bed with if you use one of Trubisky’s WRs, but Inman has now had over two weeks to prepare for his role in this offense, and my guess it will be a fairly significant one. Will the Bears have to throw it against Green Bay and Brett Hundley? That remains to be seen, but they now have a legitimate NFL WR if they do.
Adam Humphries vs. Buster Skrine
I think this is a tough matchup overall for Humphries, but with Mike Evans suspended for this week (pending appeal), he could see a ton of targets this week, with Morris Claiborne ostensibly occupying much of his time with DeSean Jackson (Claiborne was out last Thursday, but has a long week of recovery to get ready). On QB Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 48 throws this year (admittedly a small sample size), 8 have gone the way of Humphries. According to ProFootballFocus, only two players have given up more than the 30 receptions Skrine has surrendered from the slot this year. Humphries is an intriguing punt play so you can load up elsewhere (I’ve detailed some of the expensive WRs I’m already looking at this week), with the decent assumption Fitzpatrick will prefer to attack the middle of the field against the Jets’ underrated secondary. I expect DJax will be chalk this week as well, but I think I’m going to fade that chalk given the solid year Claiborne has had. I’ll let the rest of the GuruElite guys tell you if they think that’s a wise move or not.
NOT SO GOOD…
Kelvin Benjamin vs. Marshon Lattimore
It’s a rough first go of it for Benjamin in Buffalo, against one of the NFL’s emerging top CBs. In fact, Benjamin has already seen the Saints this year, in a Week 3 showdown before we all realized how good the Saints defense could be. In that game, Benjamin was held to just 2/8 receiving on 2 targets… and Lattimore didn’t even play in that contest. It’s a testament to how well this New Orleans defense is playing overall, but let’s also not lessen the impact the rookie CB has had as a true shadow/shutdown type who could soon be within the Patrick Peterson pantheon. Lattimore got into the head of Buccaneer WR Mike Evans last week, which ultimately resulted in a cheap shot and a suspension for Evans (pending appeal, of course). I think Benjamin has a shot to be more efficient in Buffalo with Tyrod Taylor, who is a better passer at this stage of his career than Cam Newton, but I’m not going to be firing up Benjamin to find out if it’s true this week.
TY Hilton vs. Steelers CBs
Hilton’s random blowup games against atrocious secondaries have been money makers for DFS players this year, and he continued a trend of absolutely scorching the Texans with his huge game this week. But other than his three massive games this year in nine weeks (against the Texans, Browns, and 49ers), he’s been barely usable, averaging under 6.0 PPR fantasy points per game. This isn’t some ground-breaking revelation, but I am fading Hilton against Pittsburgh this week because the Steelers have given up the league’s second-fewest fantasy points per game to the WR position (23.95 in PPR).
Brandin Cooks vs. Aqib Talib
The Patriots are in an interesting spot, because they’re going up against one of the league’s best secondaries and are likely to be without WR Chris Hogan, who has a shoulder injury and may not be ready to play for another week or two. The Broncos did give up 4 TD passes to Carson Wentz a week ago, and 2 went to Alshon Jeffery despite the tough matchup. But Cooks has been a receiver who has struggled with top CBs throughout his career and has had problems with Marshon Lattimore, James Bradberry, and Casey Hayward this season alone. The Patriots may choose to move Cooks around more if they don’t have Hogan this week, but he’ll see tough coverage anywhere, even if Talib isn’t primarily on him. I think this is a Rob Gronkowski game.
SNEAKY TIGHT END PLAYS
Garrett Celek vs. Giants
Here’s the big test! The Giants have given up a TD pass to the tight end position in every single game this year, including a score for Tyler Higbee last week on his only target. Of course, in a blowout win, the Rams didn’t need to throw the ball basically at all – Jared Goffthrew just 22 passes, but completed 14 of them, for 4 TDs. As lost as the Giants are, I don’t think they’re going to be giving up 51 points to (I presume) CJ Beathard. The risk here is that the 49ers are down their top TE, George Kittle, who will be out this week with an ankle injury. Celek – much like his brother Brent – is primarily a blocker but can step up as a physical receiver if need be. Over the last three seasons, Celek has just 55 catches, but 7 of them have gone for TDs, so he has produced in the red zone when given a chance. Celek has not caught more than 1 pass in any game this year, so be aware of what you’re getting into if you use him. But Kittle isn’t playing, #3 TE Cole Hikutini was just put on IR, and this matchup is absolutely glorious. It’s easy to justify him, given the low cost you’ll be paying.
Eric Ebron vs. Browns
Ebron showed signs of life last week against the Packers, catching 3 passes for 35 yards on 4 targets while playing 51% of Detroit’s offensive snaps. That was still behind Darren Fells (63%), so there’s obviously risk here in rolling Ebron out there, but Ebron is simply the more gifted receiver at the position, despite the struggles he’s had. The Browns joined the Giants as among the most exploitable matchups at the TE position, and it was upsetting that we didn’t get to play against them last week as they were on bye. Well, for the risk-takers at the TE position, they have one of the most talented but also most maligned TEs in the league lining up across from them this week. Are you brave enough to throw Ebron out there? There’s also justification for Fells, by the way, but I’d play the Ebron “upside.”
Cameron Brate vs. Jets
Brate has seen 7 of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 48 targets this year, admittedly a small sample size, but the matchup is good against the Jets and for now, the Jets won’t have WR Mike Evans, pending appeal of his suspension. Over the last five games, the Jets have allowed 18.74 FPG to opposing TEs in PPR formats, third-most in the NFL, and it stands to reason Fitzpatrick will focus his efforts on the middle of the field if Evans does not win his suspension appeal. Brate has seen more targets from Fitzpatrick than rookie OJ Howard, and on the year has 48 total targets to Howard’s 22. He’s the preferred play – and I suspect he will be a popular one – whether or not Evans plays.
PASSING-GAME RB PLAYS
Devontae Booker vs. Patriots
This play didn’t exactly work out last week, as Booker caught just 2 passes against the Eagles, but he did play a lot in a game – he played 34% of Denver’s offensive snaps, just behind CJ Anderson at a season-low 36% clip. However, Booker was Denver’s best runner in the game, albeit on just 6/21 rushing. But the team was talking him up after the game, noting the speed and explosion he gives them, and the Broncos need to get something going to fix their anemic offense (and it isn’t likely to come from their woeful QB situation). The Patriots have shored up some early-season struggles in giving up receptions to RBs, but are still averaging just under 6 receptions allowed per game to the position over their last four games, and they just put LB Dont’a Hightower on IR. Booker is an “ahead of the curve” type of play, but it sure seems like he’s going to be getting more snaps going forward.
Ty Montgomery vs. Bears
Montgomery ain’t dead yet. He had been justifiably written off from fantasy relevance given the emergence of Aaron Jones, but he showed on Monday night that he can’t be totally ignored going forward. The Packers’ offense was awful against Detroit, but backup QB Brett Hundley looked his most competent when operating out of the no-huddle, and Montgomery was the Packers’ no-huddle back. Montgomery caught just 1 pass for 18 yards but was Green Bay’s most effective runner at 5/33 rushing in the game. Meanwhile, Jones had just 5/12 rushing and played fewer snaps than Montgomery – 41% to 34% (Jamaal Williams took 15% with the game out of reach). It’s a situation worth monitoring as the week goes on, but Chicago has given up a ridiculous 30 receptions to RBs over their last four games, an average of 7.5 per game.
Source: Fantasy Guru
As a non-profit entity, we do not have the staff to cover the NFL like other great websites. When we find great articles, we pass on the information and give credit where credit is due. The content on our website is provided for FREE and solely to assist the participants in the Fantasy Gives fantasy football fundraiser, where we utilize fantasy sports as a means to support non-profit groups.
This post was adapted from their premium service and WE HIGHLY RECOMMEND PAYING FOR A SUBSCRIPTION TO THEIR WEBSITE! Please visit Fantasy Guru for subscription details.